Normandy, with its mild climate, is well known for its parks and gardens. Some of the loveliest are along the coast of Seine-Maritime.
A tour of Chateau de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques is of special architectural interest and with the added appeal of souvenirs of writer Guy de Maupassant, born there in 1850.
Enjoy the floral kitchen garden specializing in home grown produce, surrounded by walls covered in clematis, roses and trained fruit trees.
Seek out the little chapel hidden in the spectacular beech grove surrounding the estate. Guided tours in English approx 1hr 15mins or stroll around the grounds. Gardening and cookery courses available. Tel: (00 33) 2 35 85 02 80 www.chateaumiromesnil.com
Close by in Varenegeville-sur-Mer stands an English-style house and garden of international renown. Guided tours in English of the Arts and Crafts house - Les Bois des Moutiers - built by Sir Edward Lutyens for Guillaume Mallet in 1898 and walled gardens and park partly designed and influenced by Gertrude Jekyll.
See Chinese magnolias, Himalayan rhododendrons, Japanese maples and other rare plants in valleys running down to the sea - especially beautiful in May. Wondeful views of the sea, and nearby church containing the tomb of George Braques (the founder of cubism) and his blue ‘Tree of Jesse’ stained glass window. The house is still lived in by the family and guided tours are given by family member. House open mid-Mar to mid-Nov daily, gardens Apr-Oct. Tel: (00 33) 2 35 85 10 02 for more details.
The William Farcy Floral Park in Offranville is dedicated to antique roses. See colourful plants, shrubs, eighteenth century mill barn and sixteenth century church with 1000 year old yew. Information: (00 33) 2 35 85 40 42
This Chantepie and Fuchet designed links course which is nearly 100 years old is rated amongst the top 25 best courses in France. Golf d’Etretat is on the famous chalky cliffs of the Alabaster Coast and although relatively flat, the course requires a great variety of shots and has very well defended greens - very demanding in the wind!
The course is in superb condition and after your round you can admire the panoramic views further from the clubhouse and restaurant which offers freshly cooked food using local farm produce.
Clubs, trolley and buggy hire, putting green, pro shop and restaurant. Closed Tues mid-Sept to April. Travel overnight Brittany ferries from Portsmouth to Caen..
See the sculptures, paintings and works of art collected by founder Alexander Le Grand at the end of the nineteenth century.
This Gothic and Renaissance inspired building also houses the Benedictine liqueur distillery. The tour includes ‘Parcours d’Essences’ allowing you to see, touch and smell the spices and plants found growing on the Normandy cliffs which go to make up the 27 essential ingredients for the famous golden liqueur.
See the cellars and stills where it matures. Adults are offered a tasting. A manuscripts chamber has been added recently and a Contemporary Arts Gallery housing temporary exhibitions. Daily visits from Feb to Dec (except Dec 25) Tel: (00 33) 2 35 10 26 10 for more details.
30km from Rouen on the River Seine, the towers of the impressive ruined Abbey de Jumieges (the tallest church of its time in the eleventh century) still dominate the Seine Valley.
Said to have been founded in 654 AD by St Philbert, the abbey has been twice burned - once by Vikings in the ninth century and again during the Revolution. The majestic remains provide a great insight into history and architecture from the tenth – nineteenth centuries. Don’t miss the outstanding ‘Nocturnes’ light show. Free parking, picnic area and shop. For details tel: (00 33) 2 35 37 24 02
Upstream from the Pont de Brontonne, the Abbey of St Wandrille, founded in the seventh century, is still an active Benedictine monastery although partly ruined. Monks make candles, give guided tours and allow visitors to listen to their Gregorian chanting. See www.st-wandrille.com
Set on the far north eastern border of Seine-Maritime, the Chateau d’Eu was begun in 1578 by Henri de Guise and Catherine of Cleves and completed almost 100 years later.
Chateau d’Eu became a summer residence for King Louis-Philippe in the ninteenth century and England’s Queen Victoria was twice entertained here. It houses a museum of furniture, tableware and paintings. Rose-garden and park open to the public. Free parking, shop and some disabled access. 2hr guided visits in English by appointment. Unguided visits 15 Mar to beginning Nov. Tel: (00 33) 2 35 86 44 00. www.ville-eu.fr
In a nineteenth century villa set in a beautiful garden, Le Clos Arsène Lupin, which opened to the public in Etretat in 1999, recounts the life and memory of Maurice Leblanc, creator of the famous gentleman burglar Arsène Lupin - a French popular hero.
The visit is divided into 7 stages to create an original, entertaining adventure - a game of sound and light - in the footsteps of the most famous and most charming of burglars. Tel: (00 33) 2 35 27 05 21 www.arsene-lupin.com
Walkers will find plenty of scope for their favourite pastime along the seaside chalk cliffs and through the wooded valleys and lush countryside of the Seine-Maritime.
The GR2 route travels between Les Anderlys and Le Havre whilst the GR23 winds through the Brotonne Forest to Tancarville. Along the coast, the GR21 follows cliff-top trails beside the Channel from Le Havre through St Valery-en-Caux to Dieppe - a distance of 134km. The stretch between Fecamp and Etretat is particularly beautiful.
Stop at Yvetot along the way for refreshments. Inland, you can explore the 211 from Veullettes-sur-Mer and Saint Valery-en-Caux to Caudebec-en-Caux while at Varengeville 3 attractive colour-coded walks explore the country lanes and footpaths behind the chalk cliffs meeting close to the Floral Park at Le Bois des Moutiers.
For those just interested in a quiet stroll, there are plenty of shorter walks along the Seine and in the Brotonne Forest. The Forest of Eu has an interesting botanical centre. French long distance routes (GRs) are indicated with red and white markers, regional paths (GRPs) have red and yellow trail blazes and shorter local paths are usually marked in a single colour.
Walking guide books - TopoGuides - are very useful but published in French only. Ask at local tourist offices for other details.
A superb example of tenth century military architecture - well worth a visit.
More information from (00 33) 2 35 50 26
With thousands of beech and hornbeam trees and over 3kms of trails, the Artmazia labyrinth at Massy is the longest maze in the world. The park also includes ponds, orchards and an art garden hosting annual exhibitions of contemporary sculptures. See www.artmazia.com for more.